Elite Dangerous players are currently racing through the galaxy to save a charity expedition held in honor of a fellow player. The event was unfortunately tampered with by griefing players, but an outpouring of support seems to have overcome their attempts at sabotage.
Simulated charity runs in video games are one of the most selfless, optimistic events to have risen organically in video games. MMOs in particular often hold virtual send-offs to comrades who have fallen in real life, or hold virtual events for their fellow players. It's an unspoken rule that you don't mess with these types of events.
On January 5, 2018 players of the online space simulator Elite Dangerous announced that in honor of player "CMDR DoveEnigma13" (real name Brandon Keith) who has been battling terminal cancer, players will join up with him as he makes his way to the in-game system of Colonia. Keith will make the journey together with his daughter as players join him for the journey. The project has been dubbed The Enigma Expedition.
The Expedition set sail on January 12, with a forum post detailing the whole expedition including waypoints on the way to Colonia. The trip to Colonia from the starting point is over 22,000 light years away, and the expedition is expected to arrive at its destination by February 4.
Unfortunately, news recently started spreading that the final waypoint on the expedition, the Dove Enigma Megaship on Colonia (which the developers specifically placed to commemorate the expedition) was facing "technical issues." Namely, a player or players purposely sabotaged the megaship to prevent the completion of The Enigma Expedition.
The issue, as identified by the developers at Frontier, seems to have stemmed from an in-game mechanic called UA Bombing which is a griefing tactic that happens when a Megaship is sold too many "Unknown Artifacts" (UA) through the station's black market. Over time, the build up of UA stock causes a stationwide shutdown of systems.
"This one has been disappointing for us. Player memorials and charity events are something we work hard to support in Elite Dangerous, and doing so means a lot to the development team," said Frontier's communications manager Michael Gapper, in an email to USgamer.
Initial player reactions to Frontier's response to the situation had been poor as players responded strongly against Frontier's suggestion that this was done through legitimate means (UA Bombing is not a hack, but a rather annoying in-game tactic). However, Frontier also announced that it would combat the situation through legitimate means. And it appears to have been successful.
After an investigation, Frontier's head of communications Zac Antonaci issued an update on the game's official forums:
"Many of you have asked why a black market existed on the megaship to begin with. As you know, the galaxy's background simulation manages the states and services of stations based on the faction controlling it. Because all dockable megaships are subject to the changing tides of the galaxy sim, the memorial megaship's owner meant the addition of a black market."
Antonaci admits that in hindsight black markets should have been temporarily disabled during the expedition to prevent this very situation.
However, UA Bombing actually has an in-game solution, which is to deliver an item called "Meta Alloys" to counter the UA. And it appears that players not part of the expedition are now speeding towards The Dove Enigma megaship to fix the problem themselves.
"The Dove Enigma is 'Experiencing Technical Issues.' This means interference from Thargoid Sensors has been detected and – if not countered – will result in the shutdown of some station services, but this will not happen. From our view of the galaxy we can see an overwhelming number of Commanders taking flight in one direction and with one purpose: to counter the shutdown."
Antonaci writes that "With this staggering outpouring of support, we are confident that the shutdown will be averted as Commanders arrive."
These kinds of player-run charity events tend to bring out the best in players. While it's a shame that a group of players have broken the cardinal rule of interfering with events such as these by trying to sabotage the destination of the expedition, it seems that the overall positivity of the event prevailed as even more players are now joining in to see the mission to completion.
Frontier also offered an apology for allowing a situation like this to happen in the first place, but it seems that all's well that ends well here. "We're sorry for our oversight, and we thank you for taking to your cockpits."